Tuesday, November 8, 2011

With registration, Myanmar refugees no longer see the need to hide

Tuesday November 8, 2011



PETALING JAYA: It has always been a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities for Myanmar refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia.

Siang Chung, 58, has been arrested and detained three times in the six years that he was in Malaysia.

“Once, I had to spend four months in jail because there was no proof that I was a refugee,” said the father of six, who only received his United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) card after his third arrest in 2008.
Record purposes: Myanmar asylum-seekers and refugees waiting for their turn to be registered with the Chin Refugee Committee in Kuala Lumpur.
He still lives in fear that his family members, who have not received their card, could be arrested.

Another asylum-seeker who only wanted to be known as Awi claimed that his employer exploited him because he did not have a refugee card.

“My boss would threaten me and refused to pay my salary,” he said. “I am happy that the Malaysian Government is doing something to help us.”

Awi hoped that after his registration, he would not be exploited anymore.
Phun Hmung, 40, was lucky because when he first arrived in Malaysia, UNHCR was conducting mobile registrations.

He received his refugee card almost immediately and has a job servicing air-conditioning units for the past three years.

Chin Refugee Committee medical coordinator Patrick Sang Bawi Hnin said most asylum-seekers were afraid of raids because many had been arrested in the past.

“Some were detained for months and sent off to detention camps for indefinite periods,” he said.

Patrick said with the new exercise, arrested asylum-seekers and refugees would be able to prove their status.
“We have had a hard life. We are thankful to the Malaysian Government for helping us and we hope this move will improve the quality of life for us.”

Shan Refugee Organisation chairman Sai Kham Noon said: “Sometimes we would be stopped by the police on the road and asked if we’re illegal immigrants. They would not accept our UNHCR refugee card, so the registration would be a good move since they could easily identify us.”

The move to register refugees and asylum-seekers is expected to commence in January and will involve some 94,800 of them.

Source: The Star Malaysia

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